49ers: Know Your Eagles
(originally written 9/28/14)
Philadelphia enters San Francisco with an impressive 3-0 record, though they've hardly dominated. In fact, they've trailed by double-digits in the first half of every game they've played, and it took a 30-yard FG by rookie Cody Parkey to salvage the second game (a road win at Indy).
Much of their scoring has been set up by the defense forcing turnovers; still, Philadelphia's defense is suspect at this point (14th vs. the run, 30th vs. the pass). The Redskins and Colts each produced several clock-chewing scoring drives against the Eagles, though in both games Philly's D buckled down when it mattered most—forcing a Redskins' four-and-out to seal that win.
All of the team's three sacks came in Week 1 vs. Jacksonville; Trent Cole and company have exactly zero since—partially explaining the huge passing numbers racked up against them. (One of those sacks was recorded by linebacker Michael Kendricks, who will not play vs. San Francisco.)
As mentioned, the O benefiting from turnovers means a shorter field—and quicker scoring drives. A consequence: Philadelphia's time of possession far deceeds that of their last two opponents—meaning a tired defense, meaning longer opponent scoring drives.
Key Eagles (aside from #9 QB Nick Foles; if you don't know about him then you haven't paid attention) to watch for include:
#25 LeSean McCoy: The 2013 rushing champion is now in his sixth year. Though rotten against the Redskins last week and still looking for his first 100-yd game of '14 (PHI has played from behind much of this year), McCoy is still one of the league's best runners and is a very good receiver out of the backfield as well. He'll share time with...
#43 Darren Sproles: You may know him from his days with the Chargers and Saints. He's used as both a runner and returner; he's got five return TD's in his career. This year, he's got a 49-yard TD run vs. JAX and a 152-yard receiving game at IND. Sproles busted out an 18-yard 2nd-quarter run vs. WAS, lost a fumble, and did not carry again.
#1 Clay Parkey: Rookie kicker from Auburn is 8-for-9; he has already drilled two 50+ yard attempts, and nailed a game-winner at INDY "at the buzzer". Only one of his kickoffs hasn't breached the end zone.
#81 Jordan Matthews: Rookie WR busted out against WAS with eight catches/59 yards, after a very quiet opening two games. He wears TO's old number, so you may feel some unexplained contempt for him.
#27 Malcolm Jenkins: Cornerback has both Eagle interceptions this year, and they've both been "genuine" (not on Hail Marys, not standing still as a receiver slips or runs wrong route, not batted into his hands). Another former Saint, he was a rookie on their Super Bowl winner in 2009-10.
#18 Jeremy Maclin: Back after missing all of '13 (knee), he's got a team-high 16 receptions and three TD's this year. Sixth-year player averaged 65 receptions for 2009-12 Eagles.
#32 Chris Polk, KR: If you saw his 102-yard kick return TD vs. WAS, don't fret too much—it was only his third career return (though it may invite more). Polk—undrafted from Washington—is strictly a reserve so long as McCoy and Sproles are healthy. He did catch three TD passes in '13.
#58 Trent Cole, DE: 32-year-old vet is 2nd in Eagles history (to Reggie White) with 80 sacks, including one vs. JAX in Week 1.